BEAVERTON, Oregon — The Michigan Wolverines continue to emerge as front-runners for one of the Southeast region's finest offensive talents.
Nico Collins, a 4-star receiver from Clay-Chalkville High School near Birmingham, Alabama, confirmed Michigan leads his recruitment shortly after a Wednesday morning practice session at The Opening.
The 6'5", 195-pound playmaker, one of 166 total athletes selected to compete through July 10 at Nike's world headquarters, admits things are rapidly moving in a positive direction with head coach Jim Harbaugh and company.
"There's a lot of stuff about Michigan," Collins told Bleacher Report. "That's an old-fashioned school…and the academics, they care about you after football, what you plan on doing after football. That, and football itself, plays a big role in that. … The coaching staff, everything is just set up right up there."
Rated No. 13 nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings, he opted to go public about the Wolverines' spot atop his list after a May campus visit and ensuing conversations with his parents.
"They really loved it, and I really loved it," Collins said.
Collins claims more than 20 scholarship offers, including several from SEC and ACC squads. He never quite envisioned this much reciprocated interest between himself and a Big Ten team.
"I would never have thought [when I was] younger that Michigan, in the north, would be recruiting me right now," Collins said.
The Wolverines consistently targeted Alabama during the past two recruiting cycles under Harbaugh. Michigan currently carries a commitment from Yellowhammer State defensive back J'Marick Woods.
Collins, who caught 60 passes for 1,103 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2015, described a family connection to the program and region during an April conversation with Shane Kinnee of The Wolverine Daily.
“I do have a lot of family in the state of Michigan,” he told Kinnee. “So that kind of helps out Michigan when they are recruiting me. My father having been a Michigan fan and from the state of Michigan plays a big role to me, but he knows it’s my decision.”
His evaluation of a potential future in Ann Arbor could alter dramatically at The Opening, where Collins continues to work alongside 5-star Wolverines quarterback commit Dylan McCaffrey as seven-on-seven tournament teammates.
He didn't undervalue the potential pull a premier passer could provide in his recruitment process.
"It plays a big part because that might be my quarterback the next three or four years," Collins told B/R. "He wants me there pretty bad, and I'm kind of loving Michigan. … Having Dylan in my class at quarterback, I know somebody will get me the ball."
While Wolverines fans ponder the possibility of a future duo, this pair will spend significant time together in Beaverton.
"It means a lot to me," Collins said. "I've talked to him every day in the hotel, just hanging out and talking to each other. We're building a relationship and getting kind of close to each other. Coming out here on the field, when it's time to shine, he's throwing the ball. Coming out here and hanging out with him is pretty fun."
McCaffrey, an Elite 11 finalist rated No. 2 nationally among pro-style quarterbacks, agreed these days at The Opening could prove pivotal.
"He's looking at me, seeing how I play, seeing if he can jell with me for the next four years, so I'm taking it like a tryout…like I'm getting evaluated by the top guys," he said.
McCaffrey is also joined on Team Hyper Cool by 5-star Detroit receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones—another primary Michigan target. Collins didn't dismiss the chance of an eventual reunion in Ann Arbor.
"It's a possibility…it can happen, really," he said. "It's a crazy duo. You don't know who to check. Me and him, you don't know who's going to get the ball."
Collins expects to use one of his five official visits at Michigan, spending the remaining trips closer to home. Planning is underway for alternative official visits to Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Georgia.
The Bulldogs have made a strong impression since the arrival of first-year head coach Kirby Smart. Collins' multiple trips to Athens include the new regime's first spring game.
"I had to go up there and see what the new Georgia looks like after Coach [Mark] Richt left," Collins said. "What Kirby's doing with them, you know he's doing pretty good. He's got [5-star 2016 quarterback signee] Jacob Eason, [2016 Elite 11 finalist] Jake Fromm…those two are trying to get me up there to hang out with them."
Fromm identified the coveted Alabama pass-catcher as a priority target during Elite 11 finals.
"We gotta get Nico Collins," Fromm said. "He's a great receiver and one of those guys out there who can really make a big difference for us at Georgia."
Though Michigan leads, the Bulldogs are undoubtedly on Collins' mind.
"I could see myself there," he said.
Alabama provides serious competition within the SEC, though a crowded field of top-tier receiver recruits creates an interesting dynamic in Tuscaloosa. Devonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy and Jeff Thomas are fellow Opening competitors on the Crimson Tide's radar, and any could elect to take a spot in head coach Nick Saban's latest talent-laden class before Collins is prepared to pull the trigger.
Collins doesn't anticipate a commitment announcement until after he utilizes all five official visits. That could push a decision deep into the winter, though Alabama has made it clear this in-state stud is important for the long haul.
"[Receivers coach Billy Napier] said I'm a big priority for them," Collins said. "A big-sized receiver like me, on the outside playing the 'X' position. He said he's got a lot of big plans for me if I come. He really wants me to come, he’s saying how he could use me in different ways.”
Saban spoke with Collins last month, according to the receiver, and suggested he attend an upcoming BBQ event in Tuscaloosa. It remains to be seen whether Alabama will lock in another visit this summer.
Clemson is set to host Collins next week, while LSU is also under consideration as a preseason destination. Michigan may be the program to beat right now, but there's plenty of company in this widespread pursuit.
Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.
Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.